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The P2P value project: mapping the digital commons

on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 14:29

With the advent of the new digital paradigm, there is an emerging rhetoric relating P2P forms of production with commons-based subjectivities. For example, the democratic-participatory form of the P2P and its capacity to produce self-organising formats that facilitate distributed networks has been widely highlighted. However, in light of evidence that some P2P-based organisations are purely commercial (e.g. Google, Facebook or Twitter), the conceptualisation of the commons-based practices needs more precision. The recently launched P2P value project aims to provide a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of commons-based peer production (CBPP). It raises fundamental yet thus far unanswered research questions. For example, ‘How does value work in emerging organisational forms?’, ‘What conditions favour collaborative production?’, ‘What distinguishes the commons from traditional hierarchical and commercial organisations?’

The P2P value project defines itself as a ‘Techno-social platform for sustainable models and value generation in commons-based peer production in the Future Internet’. This food-for-thought definition gives a taste of the project’s foundational belief system, specifically regarding the link between the technological platform and the forms of governance it facilitates. It also points at the relevance of the notion of value in commons-based peer production, which suggests that the social gains derived can be explored and theorised.

      Three main goals guide the project and promise to move knowledge on CBPP forward. Namely -empirical research, the design of a platform and community building. First, the empirical dimension of the project offers the opportunity to provide the debate on CBPP with solid evidence. This in turn will spur theory development, incorporating an eclectic menu of theoretical and methodological approaches. This multi-disciplinary outlook is also grounded in the diversity of the project’s partners – coming from social networks and simulation, political science and online governance or law and interface design, amongst others. While the main target of this part of the project is academia it is exciting to note that the reach of this project transcends the scholarly realm. The second part of the project consists of designing a platform. This entails building an open source directory which currently comprises a hundred of cases that – by accomplishing a given set of taxonomies – can be defined as CBPP. Fascinating organisational forms can be found here. Some of such examples are P2P lab -an independent media lab interested in interdisciplinary research on free/open source technologies and practices, Wikimapia an open-content collaborative mapping project that 'aims to mark and describe all geographical objects in the world'. Or Goteo-a crouwdfunding platform for the commons. Consequently, the project can be an amazing open source tool for practitioners oriented towards its applicability by developing solutions to concrete problems. Thus, the P2P value project is in itself is an excellent example of open access research, which opens up new horizons to the understanding of the mechanisms embedded in CBPP. Not doubt that the P2P value project can fulfill its third purpose that of building a community around the knowledge liberated. As it targets a wide audience and places the tools at their disposal, it will surely find interstitial spaces for fertile discussions.

    In conclusion, the P2P value project enhances understanding towards defining the commons based peer production as social and political dynamics situated within the digital technological infrastructure. In a context of social and political crisis, this exploration on alternative forms of governance fosters the understanding as well as the exploration of appropriate practices in a key and complex context.